Bah, humbug!

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Freddy McDaniel’s portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge carries Durango Arts Center’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”

By Judith Reynolds
Special to the Herald

At last count, 10 clocks surmount the new Durango Arts Center production of “A Christmas Carol.” They hang here and there above a stage full of props, boxes and a hat tree for quick, on-stage costume changes.

Jacqueline Goldfinger’s wonderful 2007 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella bristles with stagecraft. And Director Theresa A. Carson makes the most of multiple narrators, short dramatic scenes, mime and occasional singing.

Carson has assembled an interesting cast with a few experienced actors but mostly new faces. Freddy McDaniel is a delightfully crabby Scrooge. Newcomer Larry Leonard plays the beleaguered Bob Cratchit and begins the play bent over at Scrooge’s desk. The rest of the cast members take on different roles. All join together for caroling, the Fezziwig party and other scenes.

Throughout, there’s a sense of time ticking and tocking away. Doorbells ring, midnight chimes, and on each of Scrooge’s three imaginary escapades, the cast circles and whispers “Tick-tock, Tick-tock.”

It’s a great device for upping the suspense, one of many enhancements Carson has made to heighten the drama of this familiar tale.

At Tuesday night’s dress rehearsal, the cast ran through the 80-minute production as if it were opening night. Only the fog machine balked, and vocal production seemed uneven.

Carson and theater colleague John Mark Zink have created a set with an illusion of a cobblestone street. But mostly they rely on imaginative staging and props to suggest Scrooge’s shop, apartment, childhood school and cemetery. Zink’s lighting design is particularly effective, carefully using simple drop spots, color filters and blackouts. Diane Panelli expertly operates the light and sound boards and Alyse Neubert’s costumes enhance the period atmosphere.

Three able Christmas ghosts guide Scrooge through his nightmare delusions: Past – clearly articulated by Pearce Fazekas, Present – the fleet-worded Robert Harrington-Megason, and Future – the chilling Bradley M. Abeyta in black robe and death mask. Abeyta also excellently portrays nephew Fred.

In addition to Master McDaniel, the cast includes those mentioned above plus Kim Allen (Mrs. Cratchit), Mandi Arcomano (Belle), Isabelle Herringer (little girl, young Scrooge and others), James Rollins (apprentice Scrooge), Brandi Stepp (Mrs. Fezziwig) and Tanner Young as Marley’s ghost and others).

Besides the reluctant fog machine, a few minor glitches and singing that needed a lot more energy and focus, the production Tuesday was performance ready. This is definitely family fare, and it’s wonderful to see so many new faces on the DAC stage.

Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at jreynolds@durangoherald.com.

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